The 2020 COVID-19 quarantine has been difficult for everyone I think – there’s not a single life that has escaped this pandemic unscathed by the sting of disease (physical, mental, emotional, financial and otherwise.)
I cannot dwell in that headspace. The weight of the grief for those affected sits like a weight in the pit of my stomach, it aches deep and painfully. So today we won’t sit there. There is a time and place for that grief, but today is not that day.
There was a time in my life when I was not particularly partial to living in North Carolina. I was ready to leave as quickly as I could – to bigger cities, faster paces, I guess I believed that that big bad world out there was far more interesting than the state I already called home.
And then I went to Pinetown.
Pinetown – population 155, according to the 2010 US census (I’m not joking, either.). It’s not even incorporated, but it does have a post office. Life is quieter in Pinetown. It’s slower – and savored like the last spoonful of the best meal of your life. The first time I went to Pinetown, I got a tour of 250 acre Jefferson family farm on the back of a “donkey”, which I now know is a cross between an ATV and a glorified gas powered golf cart.
I was mesmerized immediately.
Goats and pigs roaming in the pen, acres and acres of land stretched across vast empty blue skies, the family cemetery plot right in the backyard, the shop full of farming equipment I’d never even seen before in my life, it all enamored me. What is this foreign world where people don’t run to and fro like they’re sprinting a marathon all the time? I was hooked.
I felt like I was able to hang a little but then we got to to the big guns – the farming. I knew ZERO about crops. Agriculture. Farming. Where our food in the grocery store comes from. Equipment. Hunting. Fishing. Nada. Let’s just say it’s been an education. I’ve spent countless hours now on that farm, watching, learning, listening, leaning into this slower, more sacred, rhythmic pace of life where weather and seasons dictate the tempo.
This spring I watched as the ground was tilled and plowed and dug from the depths to allow the soil to breathe. As the tractor ran back and forth across that solid earth, coaxing it to the surface to be turned and shifted, the smell in the air changed. That fresh soil releasing its nutrients and minerals into the world – as Tadge Jefferson told me, it’s called “clean dirt.”
Oh, that’s a phrase where Jesus speaks.
Clean dirt – an oxymoron. Spring, with its new life, it’s freshness and beauty can only be found when the dirt, the mess, the disaster is made new. As we’ve been soaking in this season of resurrection, we’re made new by the dirtiness and disaster of the cross.
Without the blood of Jesus, we can’t be made clean.
Hebrews 9 tell us, “…but when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (vs. 11-12)
Stains make us spotless.
Our resurrection is found in the redemption of the blood – in the messy, dirty, beaten and bruised Jesus left to hang on a tree. His blood makes us clean. Far too often we try and clean ourselves – we try and wipe the stench of sin before we come to the Christ ready to ask for forgiveness. But that’s not what we’re called to.
Our dirty and our mess and our broken is welcome at the tomb. Cleansing isn’t our job. So in this world which is so messy and broken and torn apart today, right this very second, we must rest in this promise – that Jesus takes mess and disaster and stains and redeems them. Dirt makes us clean. Stains make us spotless. There is no need to try and clean. Jesus is the Great Healer – he will make new.
So I watch the farmer plow the dirt, with the grace of rhythm and pace and the scent of clean rises into the air. It fills up the space and hang with its freshness, weighty with the promise of new life, a new season of growing and planting and harvest. But the clean? It starts with the dirt.